Yesterday, Wayward Wine visited Brussels Horta House, museums, streets, and beer. Today we catch a train and bus for 2.50 to Waterloo: site of Napoleon’s final battle (and catchy ABBA song).
Past suburbs, snow falls on a grey world. The films inside the museum provide context, cheese, and needed warmth. Back outside, we find the human-made Lion’s Mound to injured William II of the Netherlands and, well, have to climb it, which knocks the wind out of us…
We warm up again in the Panorama Rotunda, which features an 100 year old painting of the battle:
Everything is quite, still, and silver. We freeze but find small monuments, the farm traded by each side, and a general sense of awe. Warming in the wax museum, we devour our pre-made cheese and avocado sandwiches.
A sense of finality sinks in. Napoleon’s demise reminds us that our adventure is nearing its end as well. 178 days of straight travel have worn us. This thing we felt we had to do has become both a delight and a chore.
We bus home and of course buy more beer. Belgium makes Kriek, a lambic sour beer made with cherries. So far Belgian beers have revolutionized our thoughts about beer, reaching heights only matched by wine and whiskey. But not all Krieks are the same.
Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck, St Louis Premium Kriek Lambic beer, Ingelmunster, Belgium. €1.09 33cl
St Louis is barely acceptable as a beverage (2 of 5). It is a hazy ruby, with pronounced black cherry aromas, a cloyingly sweet yet tart palate, pointless 3.2% alcohol and medium body. But worst are St Louis intense but disjointed flavors of stevia, 25% cherries, malted barly, and ugh mint.
We try three more:
Mort Subite, Xtreme Kriek Lambic beer, Lierput, Belgium for €.92 25cl is tart, frothy, and tastes of fake cherry popsicles, but better than St Louis: good (3 of 5).
Belle-Vue Kriek Classsique, industrielaan 21 Brussels, Belgium. €.92 (price fixing) 33cl Smells of cherry jam on hot wheat bread toast, and yeast. The drier palate is sadly flat and too alcoholic. Flavors of toasted wheat bread with tart peach jam make this taste like beer with dried cherry bits infused. Medium length, good (3 of 5).
The most bare-able was Mort Subite, Original Kriek Lambic beer. Lierput, Belgium. €.92 (again?) 25cl:
Since all Krieks cost €.92, we imagine some price fixing and low standards have collided to waste our palates and evening. Maybe, sour cherry beer is a taste we need to acquire. Nontheless, we cannot leave Brussels as disappointed as a sad wax Napoleon:
Trappist Brasserie D’Orval is famed for making one beer that uses wild yeast Brettanomyces lambicus. This yeast makes earthy, sweaty magic of French wines like Cote Rotie. Let’s see how it works.
€1.42 / 33cl APPEARANCE: a hazy, medium intense amber brown, with a cm high, off white head. AROMAS: smell like a clean but powerful white wine (Chablis?) vanilla and musk perfume, quality balsamic, hops, and honey. PALATE: feels dry, with high acidity, a medium hoppy bitterness thanks to three weeks of dry hopping, medium plus alcohol 6.2%, medium body. FLAVORS: taste of white wine, lemony hops, green grass, and raw cocoa nut that last a medium plus length.
Orval is outstanding beer (5 of 5) but very needy of food (luckily we come armed with local cheese).
Trappistes Rochefort, 8 Biere, Abbaye St-Remy, Rochefort, Belgium.
APPEARANCE: looks a hazy, medium plus brown, with light cream head. AROMAS: smell pronounced and of dried violets, vanilla syrup, raisins, and brown, malted bread. PALATE: feels dry, with medium plus acid, medium tannin, high alcohol 9.2%, and a medium body (thanks to alcohol). FLAVORS: taste pretty present with buttered brown bread toast, creme caramel, vanilla, Whisky, and a bit of hoppy leafiness. Long. Outstanding (5 of 5). Rochefort’s 8 is a smooth, easy drink.
Next their # 10 (not the most creative name) Trappistes Rochefort, 10 Biere, Abbaye St-Remy, Belgium. €2.09 33cl APPEARANCE: is an opaque, pronounced brown, with a cm cream-colored head. AROMAS: smell of pronounced caramelized pear, vanilla bean, and café mocha. PALATE: there is sweetness but medium plus acidity and tannin tackle that. The high 11.3% alcohol goes straight for the ears, making a full bodied, fat, full texture. FLAVORS: taste intensely of caramelized plantains, chocolate, heavy cream, slate minerality, and rye bread. #10 is long, outstanding beer (5 of 5) that manages to be intense yet soft, even inviting.
Napoleon may have not lasted long in Belgium. But we already regret that we must keep moving. The beer is a revelation. Any wine drinker who turns their nose up at it is missing out.
Next Monday, Bruges, and then back to France!